Accessibility in the News—03/16/17.
Cognitive and visual disabilities blanketed the news this week. Articles highlight amazing and ingenious advances in technology: The ability to type from thought, the ways visually impaired users harness the Apple’s built-in VoiceOver feature, electricity used to improve short-term memory, and extensions that help users personalize their experience in browsers and smartphones are just a few.
The flip side is, of course, that while technologists continue to innovate, too many website are still largely inaccessible to people with disabilities. Higher education and federal government, both of which have clear mandates on making their online content accessible, are behemoth sectors that still have a lot of ground to cover to make their digital content, including massive numbers of PDF documents and forms, more completely usable.
Several articles this week address accessibility in the higher education and online training worlds, including one by Kevin Gumienny that summarizes an approach that could make developing accessible learning content more feasible.
But technology doesn’t address all issues that make life rich and rewarding: Entertainment facilities can fall short, as is pointed out in the article on the Broadway play, “Hamilton.” And, more critically, emergency dispatch services can be slowed down due to processes that fail to take disability needs into account.
Read on for more on on developments in travel, social services, and other areas we all have, or should have, access to, regardless of ability.
AITN Quote of the Week
“Having no expectations shows pity, which shows sadness, sorrow and regret. A child with a disability needs support. Stand behind him, champion and back him! Believe in him and have expectations! They inspire hope, excitement, eagerness and success! Which would you want others to give you?”
– Joan Scanlon-Diset.
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The Invisibility of Disability at Amherst
03/08 | Source: The Amherst Student | Higher Education, Personal Account, Disability, Accommodations, Inclusivity, Disability Rights | Massachusetts
Two years ago, an Amherst sophomore broke her foot. She suddenly found that her life at Amherst became much more difficult. Getting around campus, going up stairs, eating at Valentine Dining Hall— simple, everyday tasks were suddenly strenuous endeavors to navigate a largely inaccessible campus landscape. Unfortunately, Amherst’s Office of Student Affairs was less than helpful. As she described in a recent interview, “I got pretty much zero help … the administration was unresponsive and unhelpful, which I found infuriating.” When she called the campus police for assistance in getting to class, they were dismissive of her requests for help. One of her classes was located on the third floor of Arms Music Building, and the Office of Student Affairs said its location couldn’t be changed. “For some reason; the administration didn’t let it happen,” she said.
The result was a humiliating experience that no student should have to go through: she had to be carried up the stairs. While some professors were understanding of her resultant tardiness, one professor was less than sympathetic and docked her final grade as a result…
The Genius in People with Learning Disabilities, Mental Health Disorders
03/09 | Source: CNN | Cognitive/Mental Health, Parenting, Resources | United States
There are numerous examples of people with learning disabilities and mental health disorders doing extraordinary things: the child on the autism spectrum who is masterful at putting together incredibly intricate Lego creations, the young person with Asperger’s syndrome who knows more about presidential history than most adults, the child with dyslexia who is a master chef in the kitchen.
This is not a coincidence, according to a new book that could help turn the stigma associated with these challenges on its head. What psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz reports in her provocative book “The Power of Different: The Link Between Disorder and Genius” is that those same brain differences that cause disorders such as dyslexia, depression and autism can lead to more creativity and artistic abilities, more empathy and an ability to visualize things in a different way…
New Report Says Improved Wayfinding Makes Airports More Accessible
03/09 | Source: Reduced Mobility Rights | Travel/Transit, Digital Accessibility, Facilities| International
The Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) is to publish a study featuring a first-of-its-kind tool for airports, the Wayfinding Accessibility Audit Checklist.
Managed by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration, the Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) is an industry-driven research program that develops solutions to problems faced by airport operators.
Laurel Van Horn from Open Doors Organization shares more on this innovative tool ahead of her presentation on the subject on March 16th at Passenger Terminal Conference 2017 in Amsterdam…
ITIF: 92% of Top Federal Websites Fail to Meet Security, Speed, Accessibility Standards
03/10 | Source: ExecutiveGov | Digital Accessibility, Government | United States
A new study from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation says 92 percent of the U.S. federal government’s most popular websites do not meet basic standards for security, speed, mobile friendliness or accessibility.
ITIF said Wednesday it analyzed 297 U.S. government websites in the top 1 million websites worldwide and assessed them on criteria such as security, speed, mobile friendliness and accessibility.
“Considering that many constituents rely on federal websites to interact with government, it is incumbent upon the new administration, supported by Congress, to make websites more convenient, accessible, and secure,” said Alan McQuinn, an ITIF research analyst…
The Little-Known iPhone Feature That Lets Blind People See with Their Fingers
03/10 | Source: Yahoo Finance | Digital Accessibility, Innovation, Tech, Blindness/Visual Impairment
A few years ago, backstage at a conference, I spotted a blind woman using her phone. The phone was speaking everything her finger touched on the screen, allowing her to tear through her apps. My jaw hit the floor. After years of practice, she had cranked the voice’s speed so high, I couldn’t understand a word it was saying.
And here’s the kicker: She could do all of this with the screen turned off. Her phone’s battery lasted forever.
Ever since that day, I’ve been like a kid at a magic show. I’ve wanted to know how it’s done. I’ve wanted an inside look at how the blind could navigate a phone that’s basically a slab of featureless glass…
Tim Berners-Lee: I Invented the Web. Here are Three Things We Need to Change to Save It.
03/11 | Source: The Guardian | World Wide Web, Tech, Digital Accessibility, Personal Account, W3C
Today marks 28 years since I submitted my original proposal for the worldwide web. I imagined the web as an open platform that would allow everyone, everywhere to share information, access opportunities, and collaborate across geographic and cultural boundaries. In many ways, the web has lived up to this vision, though it has been a recurring battle to keep it open. But over the past 12 months, I’ve become increasingly worried about three new trends, which I believe we must tackle in order for the web to fulfill its true potential as a tool that serves all of humanity…
PDFs Are Everywhere and That’s Not Always a Good Thing
03/13 | Source: Democrat & Chronicle | PDF Accessibility, Digital Accessibility, ADA, Tech | United States
The Americans with Disabilities Act was crafted close to the dawn of the internet era, and way back in 1990 in the era of President George H.W. Bush it’s safe to say that it was going to be difficult to predict how transformative the World Wide Web would prove to be.
The National Council on Disability weighed the benefits of the internet over a decade later in a 2003 study on applying the provisions of the act — “to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities” — in the rapidly changing online environment.
“While information-age technology has changed life for everyone, it has created unimaginable opportunities, and in some cases cruel frustrations, for Americans with disabilities…”, the report read…
9 Tips to Design Section 508-Compliant Mobile Learning
03/13 | Source: eLearning Industry | Digital Accessibility, Section 508, Accessible Elearning, Mobile Learning, Workplace Accessibility | United States
You want to create an inclusive corporate eLearning culture that honors employees’ unique needs and abilities. But how do you create an effective mobile learning program that is easily accessible without going over your corporate eLearning budget? In this article, I’ll share 9 tips on how to develop Section 508 compliant mobile learning courses for employees with special needs.
Every member of your staff deserves to build their skills and expertise. That includes employees with special needs, either physical or developmental. Fortunately, there are ways to offer them the support and online training resources they require on-the-go. Here are 9 tips to create mobile-friendly, Section 508 compliant mobile learning for your employees…
Buzzing the Brain with Electricity Can Boost Working Memory
03/14 | Source: Science Daily | Innovation, Cognitive | United Kingdom
Scientists have uncovered a method for improving short-term working memory, by stimulating the brain with electricity to synchronise brain waves. Researchers at Imperial College London found that applying a low voltage current can bring different areas of the brain in sync with one another, enabling people to perform better on tasks involving working memory.
The hope is that the approach could one day be used to bypass damaged areas of the brain and relay signals in people with traumatic brain injury, stroke or epilepsy…
A Blind Theatergoer’s ‘Hamilton’ Lawsuit Aims Spotlight on Broadway Accessibility
03/14 | Source: NPR | Performing Arts, Blind/Visually Impaired, ADA Accessibility Litigation | New York, United States
A recent lawsuit brought by a blind theatergoer against the producers of the hit musical Hamilton has highlighted Broadway’s spotty track record in serving audiences with disabilities. Hamilton opened almost a year and a half ago, but it’s still the hottest ticket on Broadway. Mark Lasser of Denver, who is blind, wanted to take his wife to the show and get audio description services to help him enjoy a performance. That means he hoped to get a headset and hear the stage action being described in real time, during the show. But he discovered that Hamilton doesn’t offer this particular service.
“I think what this suit brings to light is that you have a hidden population out there that is not gaining the full access to Broadway,” says attorney Scott Dinin, who is representing Lasser in the class-action suit against the show’s producers and theater owner…
‘No Plans’ to Delete Free Content
03/14 | Source: Inside Higher ED | Higher Education, eLearning, Digital Accessibility, MOOCs, Berkeley | United States
The recent decision by the University of California, Berkeley, to restrict public access to free online educational content has raised questions about whether other colleges and universities will do the same to avoid legal action. The university this month announced it will remove audio and video lectures currently available to the public on platforms such as iTunes U and YouTube. Berkeley said it reached that decision after determining that retroactively making the content accessible to people with disabilities would be “extremely expensive.”
Berkeley has pledged to create new publicly available content that conforms to web accessibility standards, but restocking its online libraries will take a long time — its decision to remove content encompasses tens of thousands of publications. The university’s YouTube channel, for example, includes 9,897 videos…
Enabling ADA Compliance at Institutions of Higher Education
03/15 | Source: Microassist | Higher Education, eLearning, Digital Accessibility, MOOCs, Berkeley | United States
On Wednesday, March 1, 2017, the University of California at Berkeley announced that, in response to a Department of Justice demand to make its publicly available courses fully accessible to individuals with hearing, visual, or manual disabilities, it would pull the courses from the internet.
Late last year, the Department of Justice (DOJ) had found that the University of California at Berkeley (UC Berkeley) was in violation of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) because “significant portions of its online content” were not accessible. In addition, “UC Berkeley’s administrative methods have not ensured that individuals with disabilities have an equal opportunity to use UC Berkeley’s online content.” Specifically, the Department of Justice was concerned with the courses that were publicly available on Berkeley’s edX channel, YouTube channel, and iTunes U platform. (DOJ’s investigation did not look at how Berkeley serves its own students, only whether its public courses were accessible. )
In its initial public comment, UC Berkeley hinted that it might pull and close down the public courses. With its note on March 1, UC Berkeley announced that it intended to do just that…
Understanding the Faculty Role in Digital Accessibility
03/15 | Source: Inside Higher ED | Higher Education, eLearning, Digital Accessibility, MOOCs, Berkeley | United States
How do campus officials responsible for the creation of digital instructional materials balance accessibility requirements with faculty independence and academic freedom? We asked a group of them.
The decision last week by the University of California, Berkeley, to take years’ worth of video and audio lectures out of the public realm because of federal requirements on accessibility for people with disabilities was decried by many accessibility advocates. And many other universities told Inside Higher Ed this week that they would not be following suit.
But Berkeley’s response aside, colleges and universities must increasingly deal with the underlying issue of how to make their educational content — more and more of which is taking digital form — available to and usable by all…
At Just 16 and 18, These Delhi Teens are Using Tech to Make the Web Accessible to Dyslexics and the Visually Impaired
03/15 | Source: Your Story | Cognitive, Personal Account, Digital Accessibility, Dyslexia, Innovation | Delhi, India
Anand Chowdhary, Co-founder of Oswald Foundation, shares his experience with YourStory.
“Two months before I was born, in October 1997, W3C announced WAI, an initiative to add web functionality for people with disabilities. The founder of W3C and inventor of the Web, Tim Berners-Lee, said, ‘The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone, regardless of disability, is an essential aspect.’”
The web has always been accessible. Browsers have had zoom and font customisation features from the start. Still, somewhere, Anand felt that it lacked in inclusiveness, remaining untouched by a huge section of society…
A Blind Woman Was Reportedly Kicked off an American Airlines Flight Over Her Guide Dog
03/15 | Source: Fortune | Travel, Transit/Transportation, Airline, Blindness/Visual Impairment, Disability Rights | Untied States
A blind woman says she was kicked off an American Airlines flight over a disagreement regarding her guide dog. In an interview with the Portland Press Herald, 61-year-old Sue Martin said she, her husband, and her guide dog had stopped over at Reagan National Airport near Washington, D.C. during a flight from Bangor, Maine to California on March 1.
When they got on the flight to California, Martin said she noticed the floor space was too small for her guide dog. But when Martin asked a flight attendant to move her to another row so that the dog could lie down, the attendant reportedly refused, and told her to leave the flight and talk to a ticketing agent…
NYC’s Redesigned Service Accessibility Site Simplifies the Social Program Eligibility Process
03/15 | Source: Digital Communities | Digital Accessibility, Government, UX | New York
ACCESS NYC has gone through a makeover in order to make it more accessible for knickerbockers to receive city services.
If you build it, they will come. When it comes to government services, that is certainly the hope. In a perfect case scenario, if resources are dedicated to providing a city service, the hope is that people in need would hear about it and be able to sign up.
This, however, is oftentimes not the case. Poor website design and accessibility issues being an afterthought can sever part of the target audience. In terms of Web design, some consider it best practice to build for the least capable, technology-adept potential user…
Students with Disabilities Voice Discontent with Deficient University Resources
03/15 | Source: The Michigan Daily | Higher Education, Inclusivity, Advocacy | Michigan
Though several institutions and officials serve as agents in supporting the community of people with disabilities on campus at the University of Michigan, those in it still face daily hurdles. Many resources, students object, fall short of inclusion. Furthermore, much of the conversation around marginalization — students and staff agree — fails to consider the experiences of individuals with disabilities.
Services for Students with Disabilities is the University’s central office with which students who have disabilities can register. It helps provide accommodations and access for students academically and in other capacities on campus.
The office’s annual report from the 2015-16 school year shows a record 832 newly registered students — more than 100 students higher than the previous year — and an overall registration of 2,277 students. Of students registered with SSD, 40 percent have learning disabilities, 26 percent have mental-health conditions and 15 percent have chronic-health conditions…
Typing Sentences by Simply Thinking is Possible with New Technology
03/15 | Source: PBS | Innovation, Tech, Mobility | California
For decades, researchers have worked to create a better and more direct connection between a human brain and a computer to improve the lives of people who are paralyzed or have severe limb weakness from diseases like ALS. Those advances have been notable, but now the work is yielding groundbreaking results.
Special correspondent Cat Wise has the story. It’s part of our Breakthroughs reporting and for our weekly segment about the Leading Edge of science and technology…
911 Is Practically Useless for Millions of People. Here’s Why.
03/16 | Source: Mother Jones | Deafness, VRS, 911, Health/Medical | Arizona
When Julian Singleton called 911 about two years ago, it didn’t go well. It was the middle of the night and his 83-year-old wife, Bernice, had fallen and lay unconscious on the kitchen floor. The retired graphics art instructor wanted to call 911, but because Julian has been deaf his entire life, he knew that he first had to call a video relay service. Once connected, he would sign with an interpreter and the interpreter would then speak to the emergency call center in Maricopa County, Arizona. The responses then would be signed back to Singleton in a laborious process that could rob his wife of crucial minutes of care.
But Singleton still went through it. He had no other options. Once connected with 911, he remembers the operator peppering him with questions. “My wife is laying here on the floor,” he tells Mother Jones through an interpreter. “I can’t be answering these questions…So I gave up and hung up. I picked up my wife and took her to the hospital myself.”
Singleton is one of about 1 million people over the age of five who are functionally deaf. There are also 37.5 million adults who have some trouble hearing, according to the National Institutes of Health, and in the first nationally representative study, Johns Hopkins University estimates that 1 in 5 Americans who are at least 12 years old suffer from hearing loss so severe it could make communication difficult…
Accessible Tourism. My Weekend in Turin
03/16 | Source: Huffpost Lifestyle | Travel, Personal Account | Turin, Italy
A sheer desire to explore and to enjoy what is beautiful in life, to visit new places and to get to know new cultures is something that moves us all. That’s why architectural barriers, physical and cultural, which often represent an insurmountable obstacle for disabled travellers should not exist. I have recently been to Torino, in the north west Italy, and I pleasantly discovered that it is a city that has chosen to dismantle many of those insurmountable barriers; thus becoming one of Italy’s favorite destination of tourism for the disabled.
Turin has often been overlooked in favour of more popular destinations like Rome, Venice and Florence; but in reality, the city that hosted the 2006 Winter Olympic Games has lots to offer, especially to disabled tourists. In fact, the tourism body of Torino and Province has been busy for several years making this city a top location for people with disabilities. This does not solely mean creating exclusive itineraries, but actually preferential lanes…
Park Honoring Franklin Roosevelt Excludes Disabled People, Suits Says
03/16 | Source: The New York Times | Mobility, Travel, Litigation, ADA | New York
A New York park honoring President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who used a wheelchair for years, is not fully accessible to disabled people, according to a class-action suit filed against the state and the conservancy that runs the park.
The strongly worded complaint, filed Thursday in federal court in Manhattan, accuses the Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island of the “systemic, discriminatory exclusion” of people who use wheelchairs, scooters and other motorized devices from full access of the park. The complaint says that this is not only in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which prohibits discriminating against people with disabilities in public facilities, but also violates state and local statutes.
“Such blatant violation of disability law is tragically ironic in light of the fact that President Roosevelt himself used a wheelchair for mobility after becoming paralyzed from polio,” the lawsuit states…
What Does it Take to Train a Certified Service Dog?
03/16 | Source: Click 2 Houston | Service Animals, Epilepsy, Blindness, Disability | Texas
Everywhere you look these days, some dog has a service vest slapped on its back, but for those who truly need a service animal’s assistance, the difference between the real thing and an impostor can be a matter of life and death. Braden Deupree, 22, is a student at Texas A&M University who was diagnosed with epilepsy in the fifth grade. His service dog, Jessie, is always by his side. His seizures are unpredictable. Or, at least, they are to him.
“She can touch me on my lap or leg, and that is her way to alert me that I am about to have a seizure,” Deupree said. “Then I can lay down and take a seat somewhere quiet, and that will keep me safe from bumping into things or falling.”
Jessie’s training was provided by Give Us Paws, a nonprofit organization that trains dogs for veterans and the disabled. It’s run by Paul Beuscher, a Navy veteran who talked to scores of veterans who were suffering physically and emotionally and recognized the need to pair trained canines with those who needed them most…
Why is Job Opportunity Still Lagging for People with Disabilities?
03/16 | Source: PBS | Employment, Workplace Accessibility | United States
We often hear about and cover the struggles that many Americans face when they try to land a good job. If you have a disability, the challenge to getting hired or even getting a response to an inquiry, much less a face-to-face interview, is significantly harder.
Our economics correspondent, Paul Solman, explores why that’s still happening. It’s part of his weekly series, Making Sense…
Accessibility Information and Blogs
- Accessible Technology: It Starts with Procurement
- All Wheels Up
- Karlen Communications
- Wheel Chair Jimmy
- The Power of Different: The Link Between Disorder and Genius
- Image SEO: Alt Tag and Title Tag Optimization
- Smoothie King
- Edith Macy Conference CenterPacific ADA Center
- Southeast ADA Center
- Schottenstein Center
- People’s United Bank
- The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia
- Banner Bank
- Union Community Bank
- The Government of Alberta
- Penn State
- Cole Haan
- Colonial Heights Public Schools
- Micro Focus
Accessibility Products and Announcements
- Xbox One and Windows 10 introduces Game Chat Transcription, starting with support for Halo Wars 2
- Hospital launches new Accessibility Plan
- Five Alberta parks to become accessible by summer
- Tableau 10.2 to make advanced analytics easier for enterprises
Additional Accessibility Information
Digital Accessibility Digest
One of our three industry blogs, Microassist’s Digital Accessibility Digest is the “umbrella” for much of our accessibility content. It features commentary, guidance, curated news, and event information.
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Microassist Accessibility Services
Outlining a host of accessibility-related services, Microassist Accessibility Services: Barrier-Free Digital Development, provides background on Microassist expertise and the various offerings available for digital content and platforms. Services cover accessible elearning, website, and application development, audit and remediation services, and accessibility testing across various formats.
Please contact us for any questions you have about our accessibility services and how we might support your organization.